FBI tracking device found; disassembled

[ifixit] has apparently grown tired of tearing apart Apple’s latest gizmos, and their latest display of un-engineering has a decidedly more federal flair. You may have heard about Yasir Afifi’s discovery of a FBI-installed tracking device on his car back in October of last year. Apparently, the feds abandoned a similar device with activist Kathy Thomas. Wired magazine managed to get their hands on it, and gave it to ifixit to take apart. There’ve even posted a video.

The hardware itself isn’t that remarkable, it’s essentially a GPS receiver designed before the turn of the century paired with a short range wireless transceiver. The whole device is powered by a set of D-sized lithium-thionyl chloride batteries which should be enough juice to run the whole setup for another few decades–long enough to outlast any reasonable expectations of privacy, with freedom and justice for all.

Xerox Phaser drum unit hacked, lives to print another day

Faced with a printer that would stop printing for no apparent reason, Finnish pirate and hacker [Janne] decided he had had enough. After doing a bit of research, he disassembled the drum assembly and replaced some components. The end result? Supposedly ‘broken’ printers started working again.

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Open Hacker Conference Badge Project Needs Your Help!

[Aestetix] writes in to tell us that the OpenAMD (Attendee Meta-Data) project is working on a new revision of their hardware, to be debuted at CCC Camp this fall.

For the uninitiated, OpenAMD combines an Active RFID tracking system with social networking, and is completely open-source. You walk into the conference, put on the OpenAMD badge, and suddenly you can see yourself as a dot moving around on a map. Or you can log into the social networking site, create a profile, and watch as your personal information is pulled into the mesh, which then tells you talks you might like, people you might like, where those people are, and more. There’s even an open API where you can create your own ‘killer’ apps, which may include games or other interesting aggregates of the attendee information.

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New, Inexpensive DSO now shipping

Seeed Studio’s line of hacker-friendly tools has expanded by one, they’ve announced that beta units of their DSO Quad oscilloscope are now available for shipping. The DSO Quad is about the size of a thick iPod yet packs impressive features such as two 72MSPS analog channels and a signal generator. By far the coolest ‘feature’ of the DSO Quad is that it’s completely open source.

DSO Quad is a pocket size four-channel digital oscilloscope designed “for common electronic engineering tasks.” It’s based on an ARM Cortex M3 that provides 72MSPS analog bandwidth on two channels with an integrated FPGA and a high speed ADC. In addition to the four data acquisition channels (two analog, two digital), the DSO Quad has a signal generator.  This lets you put out square, triangle, saw, and sine waves from 10Hz to 1MHz. An internal 2MB USB stick can be used to store sampled data, upgrade the firmware, or run custom programs. Since the device is still in beta, some of the software specifications aren’t firm, but if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive ‘scope, this could be the one for you. Just bear in mind that for this pre-production run you’re not getting any documentation, so be prepared to be off the reservation and on your own.

Oscilloscope thinks it’s a video monitor

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

Where would we be if we listened to advice like that? [Eric] writes that with a fairly simple circuit, he’s able to split a composite video signal into its constituent X and Y ramp signals for display on his trusty Tektronix 465m. A LM1881 IC does the bulk of the heavy lifting. After running the signal through a few passive components, the generated ramp signals are ready for consumption by his venerable ‘scope. All that’s needed past that is some additional glue logic to invert the levels so the image shows up properly. The end result is a display that has an almost ethereal quality to it, like an old TV set or something out of the movie Brazil.

Hit the break to catch a video of the circuit in action.

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